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W. H. Davies (William Henry Davies) Biography

(1871–1940), (William Henry Davies), The Soul's Destroyer, Who's Who

poems appeared published shaw

British poet, born in Newport, Monmouthshire. He was apprenticed to a picture-framer after elementary education, but became a vagrant and subsequently took part in the Klondike gold-rush, losing a leg while attempting to steal a ride on a train. He settled in London, living with great frugality on a small allowance from his grandmother. In 1905 he produced, at his own expense, a volume of poems entitled The Soul's Destroyer, and solicited sales by sending copies to eminent writers whose addresses he culled from Who's Who. George Bernard Shaw responded generously, arranging reviews of the book in the literary press. Edward Thomas offered him accommodation in his cottage near Sevenoaks and assisted with final revisions to the text of his The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, which appeared with a preface by Shaw to widespread success in 1908. Nature Poems and Others, also published in 1908, was followed by numerous further collections of verse, which include Farewell to Poesy (1909) and Songs of Joy (1911). He was a contributor to each of the five Georgian Poetry (191222) anthologies. Much of his work takes the form of sensitive responses to natural phenomena in verse of moving simplicity and fluent technical assurance. Numerous poems display an acutely observed social concern, which can achieve macabre effectiveness as in ‘The Rat’ and ‘The Inquest’. Beggars (1909), The True Traveller (1912), and A Poet's Pilgrimage (1918), further prose accounts of his experiences, are superior in style and structure to the novels A Weak Woman (1911) and The Dancing Heart (1927). His final work of autobiography was the posthumously published Young Emma (1980), which recounts his unorthodox courtship of the young woman he married in 1923. Complete Poems appeared in 1963, with an introduction by Osbert Sitwell.

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